PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s finances are looking good, but the city is going to have to find new revenue sources in the next couple of years if it wants to continue providing the same level of services, the city council was told.
During a workshop meeting between the Port Townsend City Council and the Financial Sustainability Task Force on Monday, Director of Finance and Technology Connie Anderson told council members the city was currently in a good financial position, but without action, the city’s reserves will start declining.
“If we want to sustain our current services, costs continue to go up” so work must be done “to even keep this as we know and have them today,” Anderson said. “If we do nothing and we don’t make any changes, we actually go backwards.”
City Manager John Mauro agreed that, without action, the city would lose ground on its priorities.
The city will need to find additional revenues if it wants to keep services at their current levels, since assets like roads will continue to deteriorate and require additional maintenance, Anderson said.
Steve King, Public Works director, said the city will need to find another $750,000 annually to maintain the city’s roads at their current level. If the city wanted to enhance its level of service for roads, additional revenues would need to be found, and King projected the city would need an additional $1.5 million annually to fully repair all the city’s roads.
Anderson and the task force presented council members with a range of options for generating new revenues, but whatever course the council chose to pursue — taking no action; maintaining current services or enhancing services — the city was also looking for efficiencies to make current operations cheaper.
Some efficiencies the city is already pursuing include contracting for certain services, relying on volunteer work for parks and other city areas and updating financial and electronic payment options.
Options for new revenues include changes to various taxes — some of which, such as property taxes, would require approval from voters — but also the possible sale of city land and establishing fee zones for parking in the downtown area.
Council members took no action Monday, and Anderson said additional information would be presented to the council following a May 19 meeting of the task force. A comprehensive financial report is to be presented in July.
Anderson also said the city would begin a public outreach process to solicit feedback from the community. Staff are working on short videos that would be made available to the public, she added.
One Port Townsend resident, Scott Walker, gave public comment at the workshop, endorsing the proposals of selling some city lands, charging utility fees to undeveloped lots, and establishing parking fees downtown.
“They’re a great way to tax others for our benefit,” Walker said of parking fees.
Mauro noted at the meeting none of the proposals were yet being considered, but city staff wanted to present as many options to the council as possible.
“We wanted to really put everything on the table. Some of these things are likely to be important for engagement,” Mauro said. “Some of them we just need to get on the table because we’re talking about all services. It doesn’t mean that some of these are very palatable.”
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.